The word ‘claim’ continues to occupy my mind. It is such an interesting term, and ‘what is the claim in your work?’ is a very interesting question. The question can also be phrased: what is the significance of your work? Which in turn seems to be a polite way of asking why anyone else should care what you are doing! Articulating an answer to that is probably the key to many things, and I am almost a little embarrassed that I have never asked it of myself before.
My own preconceptions of research (science) and applicability (design) direct me to think about answers that do not ring true in terms of my practice. If I need to find a field beyond, or possibly even within, the fine arts then I need to look elsewhere – I think I need to look to places of ideas, places that are as nuanced as an artistic practice is.
Transubstantiation comes to mind (which is a little daunting!) when I think around mutability – an idea that has some relation to the work I make, nearly making one thing another. I have often referred to art as some kind of faith, I have never thought of it as any kind of science (and nor do I want it to be). So perhaps it is inevitable that bringing together mutability and faith would lead me to think about transubstantiation. I remember learning the word at school and being fascinated by it. Not only is a wonderful word to pronounce, it also sounds so complex, difficult and nonsensical as to be almost unbelievable.
I am wondering if the claim in my work is located in something to do with seeing objects as some kind of belief system, something to do with finding meaning in objects – I mean meaning that is not restricted to their usefulness, something to do with making meaning in objects. Am I searching for the soul of objects?
Saw the ‘Life of Pi’ this week – if a tiger does not have a soul then a cake tin, shirt, length of vhs video tape and abandoned door certainly do not have them either. But perhaps it is interesting to see if I can make them reflect a soul. If that is not a claim then it might well be the aim of the work … Have I (unconsciously) been hoping that traces of soul might somehow have attached themselves to the second-hand materials I use?
The Swedish equivalent of the Job Centre has a special office for artists, actors, musicians, dancers etc. I went there this week to register and get help with finding some paid employment. Next week I go back with evidence of being an artist from the last three years so I am very glad that I produced the Ljusfältet booklet, and that Birgitta invited me to submit the idea for the piece in the first place. It is the perfect complement to the things that I have done in London and, I hope, demonstrates my ability to be an artist here too.
It is an amazing experience to go to the job centre and be taken seriously as a practicing artist. Once I am fully registered I have the opportunity to upload pictures of my work to their ‘Image Bank’ that is used by people (councils, companies etc.) looking to commission and purchase artworks! The look of sheer delight on my face amused the staff and I tried to control how many times I said “fantastic!” as they explained their range of services and advice seminars. Registering with the ‘culture office’ has the benefit that they help you seek work as an artist at the same time as they help you find more regular and easily available paid employment (fully aware that you are really an artist and will drop it as soon as you get project funding or a commission).
Altogether a very different experience from my visit to the job centre on Burdett Road (east London) where the Jobs Advisor, with a completely blank expression, told me that I meant “teacher” when I answered “artist” to her question about my profession.